This picture shows legendary writer-in-hiding Salman Rushdie consoling the twenty-eight-year-old author Roberto Saviano at a party in New York. Saviano is the author of the 2006 hit GOMORRAH (Gomorra in Italian), which exposes a nearly unrecognizable--to most of us--underside of Italian culture. (The woman with them is a book scout, but considering she's holding a glass of wine, she might as well be me. I seem to always have a glass in my hand when someone takes a picture.) Saviano is under death threats from the Neapolitan Mafia clans.
Saviano is the new Rushdie, in the sense that he travels everywhere with police protection. The difference is that Rushdie at least felt safe in New York, but Saviano has to be protected even there. Rushdie and Saviano agreed, apparently, that "living in hiding is worse than death." And the FBI said of Saviano, "He's not a writer. He's something else." Their anti-Mafia division has made him their special project, according to the article in the New York Times. www.http://papercuts.blogs.nytimes.com/
In LA REPUBBLICA, Mario Calabresi writes that Rushdie and Saviano agreed, in this conversation, that continuing to write was the important thing, even though Saviano is having to change residences constantly, and can't move without three policemen guarding him. http://www.repubblica.it/2008/05/ That's got to be a horrendous way to work!
This got me thinking about the long tradition of writers who become soldiers in wars of culture and politics. Remember Solzhenitsyn and THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO? Or Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake for his scientific views? The list goes on and on, and it seems writers make the list by refusing to give in. Saviano is a young man whose life is no longer his own. When I wrote THE TERRORISTS OF IRUSTAN, I didn't think about the possibility of a fatwa in any serious way. And I suppose I thought it might be worth the risk even if it happened. That was naive of me. It must take a soldier's courage to keep working in the face of such adversity, and I'm not sure I have that courage.